Book review: The Good Samaritan by John Marrs

4/5 stars.

Trigger warning: if you struggle with suicidal thoughts, DO NOT read this book. I know at another time of my life I would not have dealt well with the level of detail regarding suicide and related thoughts in this book.

Maybe the above goes without saying as the story centres around Laura, who works for a suicide hotline where she finds “candidates”, people who she feels genuinely want to die – and then helps them. She guides them, tells them how to most efficiently kill themselves, encourages them, and stays on the phone with them while they take their last breath.

Needless to say, this idea in itself is extremely creepy and upsetting, and also needless to say, Laura is not quite right in the head.

This story appealed to the part of me that’s fascinated by the macabre and eerie. I have to say though, even now when I feel quite far removed from any impulse to take my own life, parts of this story were definitely tough to read and made me a little queasy.

It’s clear from quite early on that not everything is as it seems in Laura’s life. She, as the narrator, admits right off the bat that she goes to great lengths to represent herself in a completely inaccurate light to her colleagues – but what else is she hiding? The first part of the book is told only from her perspective, but you notice some glaring holes in the story she tells – it just doesn’t become clear until almost at the end, what the reality of her situation actually is. I love stories like this, because I can keep guessing and trying to fill in the holes in the story myself. Some revelations were expected while others took me completely by surprise.

We meet Laura when she is preoccupied with a “candidate” that she recently helped. David was different, she had gotten close to him, and she cannot stop thinking about him. Until she gets a distraction in the form of a new candidate. But, is Steven really who he seems? Despite all the care Laura takes not to be discovered, is her carefully concocted persona about to unravel?

I don’t want to say much more in fear of spoiling the twists and turns, but suffice it to say that the book at some point changes to another person’s POV and from here on out the book becomes a cat and mouse game between Laura and this other person. Both escalating their attacks on the other as their carefully constructed lives start to spin out of control.

The minus of the book to me is that I feel it goes too far at some point. The premise itself is of course already a little unbelievable, but I was willing to suspend my disbelief for an intriguing and unusual story. Towards the end though I feel it escalates to the point where even within the framework of the story the actions taken become too extreme and too hard to believe. Nevertheless, the conclusion was OK, and I found it fascinating how more and more bits of Laura’s life  – her actual life and not the one she had constructed in her mind – came into view. So overall I enjoyed the read, and it definitely kept me turning the pages.



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